The best advice for taking children to the theatre
Taking children to the theatre can be a great way to spend time with your kids, nieces, nephews, or just the offspring of your friends. But, many questions could also arise from the thought of spending hours at the theatre with kids. Will the children sit still for a couple of hours? Will they want to be there? What if they get bored?
To make sure a trip to the theatre with children goes as smoothly as possible, we've got some handy tips and tricks. Once you've mastered all these tips, you'll want to take kids to the theatre in London every time.
Pick a West End show that's suitable for children
With many shows in London, it can often seem like there's too much choice. However, there are plenty of West End shows filled with lovable characters. Check out our list of musicals and West End shows designed for kids here. Some of the best fringe theatres in London produce work dedicated to children, including the Unicorn Theatre and the Polka Theatre.
Our collection of family-friendly shows are bound to inspire any trip to the West End when you're taking young ones. The lineup of shows changes throughout the year, so you'll want to book multiple theatre tickets to ensure you get the best experiences. From comedy plays to kids musicals, there's a show guaranteed to engage your child.
If you don't know which childrens' musicals to choose, why not take a look at our London theatre reviews? We've reviewed many shows designed with children in mind, and they'll help you decide what to see.
Follow the age recommendations and age restrictions of an event
Many family-friendly shows in the West End have age recommendations. These aren't set in stone and act as a guide for how old audience members should be. While they don't always need to be followed exactly, shows set age recommendations with everyone in the audience in mind. These recommendations act like film ratings, but also give you a sense of whether your child will understand the plot of the show.
Age restrictions however must be followed for children's theatre. Children who are younger than the age restrictions may not be allowed into the venue.
Book West End theatre tickets for a matinee performance
If you're wanting to take your children to the theatre in London and get them home in time for tea, why not book tickets for an afternoon performance? Theatre isn't just for the evening, and the majority of West End shows include afternoon shows as part of their schedule. You can explore the very best of London's theatre scene without having to worry about the last train home.
Choose the right seat so children can see all the action
You can buy a ticket for a seat as close to the action as you want, but if you think that you're going to be getting out of your seat regularly with a child in tow, booking an aisle seat is recommended. Doing this, you'll be able to get in and out of the theatre while disturbing fewer people than if you were in the middle of a row.
Get the children excited before seeing a show
Encourage children to learn more about the show before watching it. If the show you are going to has a soundtrack, why not play the soundtrack on car journeys before you go to see it? Or if there's a storybook, it could be a fun way to get to know the story with younger ones before seeing the show in front of their eyes. Family-friendly shows will be both spectacular, and easy to understand.
How to prepare before seeing a West End show with children
Follow these short tips for the best experience at the theatre before the show even starts.
- Make sure that you arrive at the theatre with plenty of time.
- If the children you're taking to the theatre are still in pushchairs, the theatre will have space to store your pushchair.
- If your children cannot see the stage from their seat, ask a theatre usher if there are booster seats or cushions available.
- If you're sitting further away from the action, it may be worth paying for the binoculars in front of your seat.
What should I do during the show with kids?
The magic of going to the theatre is sharing those special moments together that you'll remember for a lifetime. During the interval, talk about the characters, the music, and what you think might happen next. Let your imagination run wild as you come up with storylines and what you think of the characters to really immerse them in the world of theatre.
What should I do with kids after the show?
Take your time! There's no need to rush out of the theatre. With children's theatre, it's likely that there'll be hundreds of children with their families so don't try to beat everyone in the crowd.
My child has specific needs, will the theatre cater for this?
The majority of West End theatre shows in London also have relaxed and captioned performances as part of their scheduling. During relaxed performances, the house lights often stay up, loud noises are made quieter, and there's sometimes a chillout area to sit in if the show and going to the theatre is overwhelming.
To find out dates of relaxed performances for specific productions, check out the theatre's website.
Photo credit: Children at the theatre (Photo by David Levene for The Guardian)
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